The God gene and human pride

David Limbaugh

12/14/2004 12:00:00 AM - David Limbaugh

Don't get all nervous, but this new "discovery" of a God gene that finally gives us a scientific explanation for those whacked-out believers in God started me thinking about the sin of pride.

Romans 1:20 says: "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities -- his eternal power and divine nature -- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse."

 In other words, human beings have to reject what their senses and intellects tell them in order to arrive at any other conclusion than that God created them and the universe.

 Many learned scientists reject this idea, preferring to believe just the opposite: that a belief in the Divine Creator is counterintuitive, devoid of reason, blind to the facts and insufficiently deferential to science. You wouldn't believe the condescending e-mails I received from self-described scientists following my column on the book "I Don't Have Enough Faith To Be an Atheist," telling me, essentially, what a moron I am.

I wonder what these smug critics would tell Britisher Anthony Flew, one of the world's leading proponents of atheism, who has now abandoned his disbelief in God. Flew observed, quite rightly, that the latest biological research "has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life), that intelligence must have been involved."

 When anticipating the inevitable shock of some of his co-atheists to his transformation, Flew said, "My whole life has been guided by the principle of Plato's Socrates: Follow the evidence, wherever it leads."

 That's precisely the point. Contrary to the position of many atheists, especially those who believe that Christians are reality-challenged and science-averse, theism -- particularly Christianity -- is supported by reliable evidence.

 Which gets us back to the subject of pride. I have always believed that among the obstacles to belief, human pride is the leading culprit. Pride is responsible for the notion that no God was necessary to have created life from no life, the material world from the immaterial world, something out of nothing.

 Instructively, "Humanist Manifesto II" bears this out, declaring, "As nonthesists, we begin with humans, not God, nature, not deity. ? But we can discover no divine purpose or providence for the human species. While there is much that we do not know, humans are responsible for what we are or will become. No deity will save us; we must save ourselves."

 It's hard not to conclude that such pride is responsible for the above-mentioned bizarre theory of American molecular geneticist Dr. Dean Hamer ("The God Gene: How Faith Is Hard-Wired Into Our Genes"), that a person's capacity for believing in God is genetically determined.

 Those with VMAT2 -- the God gene -- apparently have freer-flowing mood-altering chemicals in their brains, making them more inclined toward spiritual beliefs. Environmental influences, such as growing up in a religious family, supposedly have little effect on our beliefs.

 Uninhibited by humility, Dr. Hamer doesn't limit his conjecturing to his area of expertise. He ventures out into the spiritual and historical realms as well, telling us his findings aren't antithetical to a belief in God because "Religious believers can point to the existence of god genes as one more sign of the creator's ingenuity ? Buddha, Mohammed and Jesus all shared a series of mystical experiences or alterations in consciousness and thus probably carried the gene."

Perhaps Hamer's pride obscures from him the pitfalls in over-generalizing and presuming to lump together believers of different faiths. How could Christ, who claimed to be God in the flesh, have shared any mystical experiences with Buddha and Mohammed, neither of whom asserted their own deity?

Perhaps Dr. Hamer's conceit prevents him from recognizing that a God-gene is hard to square with Biblical Christianity. How could Christians subscribe to the idea of a God gene when the God of the Bible, if nothing else, is a god of accountability and judgment? Surely even Five-Point Calvinists would consider the notion a grotesque twist on the Doctrine of the Elect. But these distinctions are doubtlessly lost on the likes of Hamer, whose theories necessarily elevate the concept of determinism and demote personal responsibility.

Indeed, perhaps it is pride that leads the anti-theistic among us to reduce everything to deterministic molecules and DNA because such things are within their eventual grasp and control. To acknowledge that there may just be certain things beyond their eventual comprehension and, thus, control could be tantamount to recognizing that there is something -- Someone -- greater. Such blasphemy cannot stand.

 Perhaps the good doctor's arrogance precludes him from considering that for many Christians, believing is not a matter of some chemically induced emotional state. It is based on things far less vulnerable to the vicissitudes of our emotions, such as a belief in the Bible as the unchanging, inspired Word of God.